Maude Austin

Clara Maude Austin taught at Cold Springs School about 1915.  She was another upper Sumner County girl born April 12, 1878.   Her parents were John William Austin and Isa Phene Hughes Austin.

 Maude was descended from two of the areas earliest families - Austin and Groves. Her ancestor Thomas Austin and his first wife, Frances Dickerson, moved to Sumner County around 1811 from Calvert Co., Maryland.  Francis died the next year and Thomas later married Elizabeth “Betsy” Groves, daughter of Thomas Groves and Eady Harrod Groves.

 In 1820, Thomas and Betsy bought a 500 acre tract of land from James Greer of Robertson County.  It is assumed from the purchase price of $1,200 that the frontier federal style brick house; now known as the “Austin House” (on Crafton Road) was already on the property.

Historian Kenneth Thomson believes the house may have been built as early as 1795, one of the most significant structures north of the ridge. Maude was descended from Thomas Austin and his first wife through their son John (b. abt. 1807).  John married Rhoda Groves, daughter of Isaac, and granddaughter of Thomas and Eady Groves.  They were the parents of Isabella, James T., Mary, Nancy, Andrew Ewing and John William Austin.

John William Austin (1847 – 1933) married Isa Phene Hughes about 1877. They had three children: Clara Maude, William Clay, and Leon “Lynn” Dickerson Austin. William Clay Austin served as Portland Mayor 1917-1918.  He died in office in 1918 of the “Spanish” Flu; since his mother also died in 1918 it is possible she succumbed to it as well.

 It was one of the worst global epidemics.  About 20 million people died worldwide. Maude’s other brother, Leon “Lynn” Dickerson Austin, owned the Portland Planing Mill and was responsible for much of the early building in Portland.

Maude married Edwin Simon Elliott in December 1905.  In the 1920 Census they lived on High Street. They had three children: Edwin, Joel, and Elizabeth.  Edwin moved to Florida and is buried there. Elizabeth married Herbert Gossett.  They didn’t have any children but all of the children around town loved them both.  Elizabeth worked at the drug store near her home on College Street and she always had a small treat for all the children who came in. Joel began Elliott’s Builders Supply in a building south of town that later housed Shell City Garage.  Sometime later he moved the business north of town and it’s now known as Portland Builder’s Supply. Maude was very active in the First Baptist Church during her lifetime, teaching and serving as President of the Women’s Missionary Union. She lived at 116 College Street, across the street from the church (now McGlothlin St.), so she was always on hand to see to church needs.  Her daughter followed suit as she and her husband Herbert lived in that house that formerly sat where the Occasion’s parking lot is now.  Ms’ Elizabeth always kept the flowers around the church watered and well-groomed.  She had a way, probably learned from her Mother Maude, of keeping the flowers healthy over the winter season and ready to be planted again in the spring.  Clara Maude Austin Elliott died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism in July 1951 and is buried beside her husband in Maple Hill Cemetery.

Clara Maude Austin Elliott taught at Cold Springs School about 1915.  She is shown here in the mid-1940s with her granddaughter, Carolyn Elliott.

Gladys Staggs 

Gladys Staggs graduated Sumner County High School in 1918. She also taught at Cold Springs School during her senior year. She was born March 30, 1898.

We have not been able to determine who her parents were. However, a businessman named John Fowler Staggs and his wife, Anna (Kirkpatrick) Staggs, moved to Portland sometime before 1920. 

Gladys married Herbert Harper in August of 1918; they lived with his parents in the Mitchellville area helping on the farm in the 1920 census. They were the parents of Herbert, Jr., James Harold, Perry Lane and Thomas. The family was living on the Fountain Head/ White House Road in the 1930 and 40 censuses and she was helping at the nearby school.

Tragedy struck the family in 1942 when their son, Second Lieutenant James Harold Harper, serving in the US Army Air Corps, was killed in a training accident involving a mid-air collision between two AT-17 aircraft, near Moody Field, Ga. His co-pilot and the two airmen in the other aircraft were also killed.

James Harold had completed four years of college and was working at the General Shoe Company when he entered the service. He was only 21 when he died.

Lieutenant Harper is buried in Maple Hill Cemetery as is his father who died in 1965 and his mother, Gladys, who lived until 1982. John Fowler and Anna Kirkpatrick Staggs are also buried in Maple Hill Cemetery beside Gladys and her family.

Virginia Louise Bunch

1916 – Virginia Louise Bunch was born July 1898 in Butler County, Ky.; the daughter of Joseph and Ollie Bunch. 

Her mother died when she was only eight years old.  In the 1910 Census, Louise is living with her grandparents in Butler County. Her father, who was a lawyer in Morgantown, Butler County, died in 1911 when she was only 13. 

At some point she moved to Portland where she graduated from Sumner County High School.  1916 was the first year for students to graduate from a four-year accredited high school in Portland.  Prior to 1916, only three years of high school classes were available.

She taught at Cold Spring School during her senior year. On April 14, 1917 she married Charles E. Kerley, one of the three sons of James Eldon Kerley and Mary Ella Harris Kerley who owned J.E.Kerley & Son’s Store here.

In the 1930 Census they were living on High Street and Wheeler Street in Portland. As the family grew larger the decision was made that brother’s John Vernon Kerley would take over the Portland Store, Clarence W. Kerley and his bride Edna McNeil would open a store in Columbia, and that Charles E and Louise would open a third Store in Lewisburg, Tenn. 

By the 1940 Census, Charles and Louise Kerley had moved to Lewisburg to run the store there.  She died in Lewisburg in 1986.

Ruth Roark

1917 - Ruth Roark was born in Salmons, Simpson County, Ky., April 6, 1898, to Elbridge Harbison and Frankie (Reed) Roark.  She had two younger sisters.

In 1910, the family was living on Russellville Road in Sumner County, Tenn. Ruth attended school here and graduated from Sumner County High School in 1917, the same year we believe she taught at Cold Springs.

Sumner County High School was noted for training students to go into the field of teaching. A number of students would teach elementary students part of the year before returning to high school to complete their degree.

She married Walter Russell Talley the day after Christmas in 1919 in Alabama.  Apparently they returned to Tennessee as their daughter, Jean, was born in Portland in 1922. According to the Florida State Census, in 1935, Ruth and Walter and their three children were living in Florida where she continued her career as a school teacher. Ruth died, shortly before her 90th birthday, March 20, 1988, and is buried in Bradenton, Manatee, Fla.

Hattie Perdue

Hattie Perdue was born in District 13 of Sumner County in November 1879. She was the daughter of James O. Perdue and Anne Perdue.  By the 1900 Census she was Hattie Deasy or Mrs. William Deasy. She had married William Deasy on Dec. 13, 1899 in Sumner County.

She and William were 20 and 21 respectively in the 1900 Census and they were living in the household with her parents. It listed William as a Farm Laborer. The 1920 Census listed her as teaching public school and we have her teaching at Cold Springs School beginning in 1921.

It is unusual at this time for a married female to be allowed to teach school, but by this date she is 40 years old and has two children, Luther Deasy, 18 and Paul Deasy, 15 and the family is living in District 16 of Sumner County.

We have a copy of a report card for Thomas Stewart where Hattie Deasy is promoting him to 3rd grade at Cold Spring on April 21, 1922. School records show that she was one of the longest teachers at Cold Springs, teaching from 1921 to 1926.  Hattie Deasy died March 6, 1927 and is buried in Maple Hill Cemetery in Portland.

In conclusion of our Cold Springs teacher bios we would like to say that we have tried to be accurate, but we know we have made mistakes.  The list of teachers and years taught at Cold Springs School are as follows:

  W. T. McGlothlin - 1866; J. O. Blaine - 1868; James Knox Polk McGlothlin - 1871; Thomas Wright West - 1886; Annie Smith - 1900; Liza Piper - 1902; Emma Staggs - 1907; Bertha Anthony - 1908; Geneva Crenshaw - 1909; Nellie Payne - 1910; Kate Weymes - 1910; Ruby Lane - 1912; Moore Cotton Hobdy - 1913; Nannie Roney - 1914; Maude Austin - 1915; Louise Bunch - 1916; Ruth Roark - 1917; Gladys Staggs - 1918; Erline Duer - 1919; Eula Williams - 1920; Hattie Deasy - 1920-1926; Viola Walter - 1926-1928; Belle Walden - 1928-1934.

We say that the school was built by the parents in 1957; then we know the school was closed during the Civil War. Our first known teacher is W. T. McGlothlin in 1866, but there were probably some before him. Also, the years from Thomas West in 1886 to Annie Smith in 1900 is quite a gap so there were probably some other teachers during that time too. 

Our Cold Spring School will be open on Sunday afternoons from June 1 through Aug. 25 from 2 to 4 p.m. We invite you to come visit and bring your grandkids!

Thanks to The Portland Sun for running our articles,

Highland Rim Historical Society - Johnnie Freedle and Paula Shannon.

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